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Write a Lobbying Letter

Why write lobbying letters?

  • Writing to a decision-maker is a good way to express your opinion and get your message across.
  • It works for different targets: whether a Member of Parliament, government minister, United Nations official or celebrity.
  • It is one of the easiest and most cost-effective campaigning techniques.
  • It is also a practical way to mobilise campaigners to take action.
  • But, letter-writing is most effective when it forms part of a wider strategy. Ideally, it should be complemented by other approaches to the target, such as personal visits, and other actions, like publicity.

Who to target?

Who do you write to? Answer this quiz to help work out who you should be targeting.

  • Who has the power to make the change you are seeking?
  • What is their current position on the issue?
  • Are they open to pressure from within Government? Are they open to external pressure and if so, from whom?
  • What are the best ways to influence them?

You may decide to write to secondary rather than the primary target i.e. not the person who has the decision-making power but someone else who can influence them. For example, you may write to an advisor or Member of Parliament asking them in turn to influence their Minister.

Once you've settled on a target, it will be easier to work out the tone and message of your letter. Contact by letter is most effective if it is based on a relationship with the person. Ideally you will keep writing to the same person. But be flexible -- if the situation changes or you are having no luck with one contact, you may choose to lobby someone else.

Get it right!

Make sure you spell the official's name and title correctly. Be sure to use the right salutation or form of address. This will vary from country to country and, if in doubt check with their office first.

How to write effectively?

Get supporters to write

Encourage members of the public and active supporters to write letters by including sample letters and addresses in your newsletter, posting letters on your websites, organising letter-writing evenings, setting up tables and inviting members of the public to sign letters or postcards.

Remember your audience

Letters should address your target's interests and concerns directly. Make it clear how they will benefit from your suggestion e.g. more votes or public recognition for taking a stand and distinguish your message very clearly from those of others e.g. by referring to your previous meeting with the target.

Ask for something specific

If appropriate, ask the decision-maker to do something concrete. For example ask them to vote for a bill, ask questions in parliament, contact a particular minister or government leader on your behalf, invite you to address a hearing or use their influence on another party or individual. Be sure to include your contact information so that they can get back to you.

Personalise it

The most effective letters are individually written or typed. So, even if you use a standard letter as the basis for your own, add in your own words or perspective. Also, consider hand writing the letter or at least write out the first and last lines ("Dear... and "Yours faithfully...") and use your own stationery if you're writing in your personal capacity.

Email or snail mail?

Check first how you should send your letter. Some decision-makers do not use email regularly and don't place much value on email correspondence. In some countries the postal system doesn't work very well and faxes are unreliable.

Keep writing!

If you don't like the response you receive then write back.

What kind of letter?

High impact letters

These are from a well-known person such as a religious leader, politician, Nobel laureate, member of the royal family, musician or movie star.

Letters from groups

Landmine survivors, military veterans, prominent religious leaders or other sectors in the community sign a letter to a lobbying target.

Open letters

A copy of a lobbying letter is sent to newspapers for printing in letters pages, quoting in news articles or to run as an advertisement. This technique is particularly effective when the letter is signed by a respected group or individual.

Mass appeals

A campaign is launched to invite the public to write and sign a lobbying letter. These can be based on sample letters or utilise pre-printed postcards. Even if sample letters are used, do encourage campaigners to personalise their letter as much as possible as they will have more impact. Note that, for maximum effectiveness, you will need to generate high numbers of letters. This is a good way to raise awareness and give members and the general public a practical way to support our work for a mine-free world.

What to say in the letter?

Having researched your target and the subject, you should have a good idea about your message.

A typical letter would include:

  • Your address – right hand side
  • The official’s salutation, name, title, address – left hand side
  • Date in full – right hand side
  • Name of official and correct salutation/greeting
  • First paragraph: say why you are writing e.g. in response to a public statement, with reference to an anniversary, with regards to an upcoming meeting, to follow up a previous request. Say if you are writing on behalf of others or an organisation or if you are writing in your personal capacity and what has prompted you to do so.
  • Second, third paragraphs and body of letter: develop your argument, backing it up with facts, figures, specific cases, quotes, relevant legislation.
  • Final paragraph: state what action you would like the official to take, for example: send you information on their stockpiles, grant you a meeting, state their position.
  • Closure: Yours sincerely or Yours faithfully
  • Your signature, name and if appropriate your title and organisation.
  • Copies: who has received copies of the letter

Address book

Here are some useful websites for setting up and maintaining your contact data. (Be sure to double-check before running a letter-writing campaign.)

Mailbag

Real-life examples of lobbying letters from ICBL campaigners, staff and supporters, to inspire you! Read these letters to: